Vaccination pain management for adults: Guidance for health care providers

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Vaccination is important at every stage of life; however, for some people, these procedures can cause unnecessary pain and stress, which can make them less likely to adhere to suggested vaccine schedules and miss essential immunizations. Health care providers play an important role in a person’s decision to be vaccinated and their comfort during this process.

For optimal protection, it is important to review a patient’s vaccination record at every opportunity and offer any needed vaccines. Adults may need a booster dose or to catch up on previously missed dose of vaccine.

As a health care provider, you have an opportunity to help make a patient’s vaccination experience comfortable and help reduce pain during vaccine injections. Building trust with your patients increases the likelihood of future vaccine acceptance for them and their families.

Examples for a comfortable vaccination

There are a number of ways to make vaccine injections more comfortable for adults (PDF). Combining strategies can help reduce pain during vaccination.

Some examples include:

Muscle tension technique

If a patient feels dizzy or faint during an injection, have them squeeze the muscles in their legs and stomach. Ask them to keep squeezing for 10-15 seconds until their face feels warm. Relax for 20-30 seconds and then ask them to repeat a few times or until the symptoms go away. Alternatively, they can lie down during the procedure.

Needle fear

If a patient has a high level of needle fear, consider referral to a mental health expert, such as a psychologist. Treating needle fear can help alleviate the stress that is sometimes associated with needles. Overcoming needle fear will increase comfort and help patients to be more accepting of future vaccinations and other needle procedures.

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